This is the last post in a short series on the importance of core values in the local church. Core values are helpful in emphasizing what makes a particular church unique. But what happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?
So far, I have described two scenarios that can spring up in a church where they don’t know or act on their core values: perpetual conflict and mission drift. These of the symptoms of the greater problem of ignorance and apathy. Here is a third scenario that can arise from this problem.
Scenario #3: Misplaced Priorities
Calvary Church has had many ups and downs during Pastor Mark’s tenure. During the last few years, however, the downs seem to be happening more regularly. In order to “rebuild momentum” and “turn things around,” Pastor Mark has encouraged his church to lower their standards for membership. In fact, they have discussed removing membership from their church altogether. The line of thinking is that people are just people. If they make it as easy as possible, with no expectations or required beliefs, then maybe more people will opt in. This idea gains a lot of traction with the church’s existing membership and they make it a major emphasis as they promote their church out in the community. For a brief time, the emphasis seems to work, attracting a handful of newer people to the church. But they don’t stick around very long because their commitment level is so low.
Another problem pops us in Calvary Church as well. Some of the newcomers to the church hold some unbiblical views and others are involved in some questionable practices. One charismatic and persuasive newcomer offers to teach a study that describes heaven and hell as a myth instead of real places. Another caring and creative newcomer begins a class on the benefits of all world religions. In time, these groups weaken the church’s convictions about the necessity and uniqueness of the gospel message.
All values are not created equal. Some values are real and some are aspirational (“I wish we believed in X, Y, or Z”). Some values are shared and others are personal (Think back to the scenario about perpetual conflict). And more importantly, some values are biblical and some values are not. This may one of the most important reasons for a church to identify and define its core values. If a church chooses and implements an unbiblical value, it will wander away from its Scriptural basis.
Being open and welcoming to newcomers are good and healthy things. Removing unnecessary barriers to participation and membership is a must. For example, people shouldn’t be expected to meet a specific dress code to attend or join your church. But removing any and all doctrinal boundaries or expectations for membership is a value that goes too far. In fact, it’s unbiblical. The Scriptures make repeated references to the importance of being a recognized part of a local church (Acts 2;47, 1 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews 13:17).
It is important that church leaders and church members know their core values to make sure they line up with Scripture. Things that are unexamined and unexplained can lead subtly in the wrong direction.
Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve observed about core values in the local church.